Tuesday, August 31, 2010

24 Hours of Afton

I had everything ready to go for this event nearly a week in advance. Gear, food, first aid, and camping equipment was neatly laid out across the living room floor. I was a bit excited. I brought everything from a spare bike to spare bolts, Vaseline to hemorrhoid cream.
Kayla and I headed up on Friday night to set up camp, stopping at Chipoltle on the way where I ate two chicken fajita bowls because Kayla didn't like hers. Fine by me. Over-eating in such a fashion would normally fill my belly with guilt, as if I were a ninth grade school girl cheating on her diet. But knowing what was coming the next day, I instead took on the persona of a jolly sumo wrestler.

Anyways, let's get to the race. Well what I remember of it anyways. It was a la mans start--not a bunch of guys helping their pregnant wives with breathing techniques--but a mad dash. We ran up a hill and around a shed, then back down the hill to our bikes, which we had to find among hundreds of others strewn about the ground. It was a bit like playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey where you are blind folded and spun around seven times. And riding up the first few singletrack hills in a tight group (all going in granny mode) was a test of balance to say the least. Like with field sobriety tests, some of us passed and some of us hit the ground. Perhaps some were still feeling the effects of the previous night. I was feeling pretty shitty the first few laps. I was keeping an eye on Charley, but also on my HR monitor. I was quick to let him go, knowing his pace was unsustainable for me. Whenever I felt I was pushing too hard, I asked myself, "self, can you really maintain this for 24 hours?" The answer was always no, so I'd slow the pace a bit. As for Mr. Popp, I knew he would be super consistent, perhaps even stronger as the hours ticked by. I did know, however, that I could make up time on the more technical portions of the laps (the plunge was my favorite). So that's what I did. I tore it up as if in a xc race on the descents and (it sounds paradoxical) rested on the climbs. In fact, I looked forward to man handler because it was one of the few non bumpy sections, allowing me to sit up, straighten out the back, and rest. I ate a sandwich or bar each lap on shady lane. I was loving the climbs.

Probably about the fifth lap I got into a rhythm. Riding that long, you start to shift into the same gears at the same spots, get out of the saddle at the same spots, learn the best lines (usually on the grass), get through the pit quickly, and you do all this without thinking. What you think about, though, is that you are not even halfway done. You think about the blister on your right pinkie toe. When climbing shady lane in the dark, unable to chew down that bland bar, you try and send telepathic messages to your pit crew to cook some mac and cheese. You think about what a fresh chamois will feel like. You break the lap down into climbs: there's shady lane, the switchbacks, the man handler, and then you're done. You think about dry socks, sharp rocks. You think about back rubs and those warm towels that first class passengers put over their face.You think about how much better night time is than hot day. You feel sorry for the team riders racing by at xc pace, while, in comparison, you are sitting on a beach sipping some fruity drink with one of those little umbrellas. You think "Oh shit, I forgot to drink this lap." You wonder what your brother is doing. You want to know what time it is. You think about one more lap. And then another. Your light burns out and you ride with a guy whos name is Dean, a solo rider who just turned fifty and races dirt bikes and goes on two hour road rides standing in the big ring the whole time and wants to beat his record of 15 laps and claims a 29er hardtail is all he needs and thinks fishing is boring and can somehow tell whole stories without missing a breath while you can hardly keep up. And then the sun finds its way into singletrack. You start thinking about math. You think about how many more laps you have to do to make sure you don't get beat by a girl. You tell everyone you will never do this again. You start to think about next year.

What kept me going: Perpetuem drink mix, peanut butter banana sandwiches, Macro bars, potato chips, the guys on top of man handler, pretzels with peanut butter in the middle, mac and cheese, pretzels with cheese in the middle, my crew girl, ramen, and electrolyte pills.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hawk Chase

photo from skinnyski.com

Last Sunday was the Hawk Chase in Duluth, a new stop this year for the mn mtb series. Once again it was a race which left the bike decorated in mud. There were only a few really muddy spots. But it was the kind of sticky, clay mud that warrants the use of a mud tire, which I didn't bring with. I was running the semi slick Bontrager 29.0s. Needless to say I was sliding around a lot. Anyways, off the start it was Doug, Brendan, Erik Tonkin, Sam, Skj, and myself. Doug lead in the single track for the first lap then let everyone by. Sam moved up into the lead. But we were all still a group for a while. I knew there was going to be a break in the pack coming soon, and I wanted to go with it so I got around Scott. A little while later I went down in a slick corner. Scott went by but I caught back up. Then the three in front road away from Scott and I. I decided to hang behind Scott since he was riding awesome in the mud, picking great lines through the slick rocks, roots, and bridges. Each time we came to mud he just road right through like nothing, leaving me chasing on foot. When I'd finally get back on the bike I'd have to chase for a minute or so just to catch back up. On the last lap, though, he insisted I go on ahead. I told him it wouldn't be fair to pass him now after all the work he did, but he gave me the go ahead, and I went ahead. I finished 3rd behind Tonkin then Sam. Brendan flatted at some point. After awards (all the prize money going straight to the gas station), Kayla and I hit the road on a trip plagued by road construction and the entire population of the greater twin cities coming home from the cabin all at the same time. 5 hours later we were home, and I was already thinking about the upcoming 24 hours of Afton. See you there!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Tale of Two Bucks

Thursday's Buck had your noble author leading out up the hill with Brendan soon taking over on a paved climb, only to let me by as he clipped a pedal on a stump. While dodging his tumbling body, I asked if he was Ok. He said yea, dude, never been better. At this point I pulled a Contador and took off like a bat out of hell...no...more like a Contador out of saddle. I proceeded to take advantage of Brendan's misfortune for the next three laps or so. But suddenly guilt struck me. It was so strong, I could feel it like a hunk of burning lead in my legs. Thus, I decided to let up and let him pass.

Not waiting to be seated
Sunday's Buck had Brendan leading up the initial climb with your author in toe. By the time we started the second lap, it was down to Brendan, me, and Eric Thompson. I took the pull on the second lap. The first lap went by smooth, but the second I may have set the pace a bit too high for my own good. By the third lap, on the grassy part of the climb, I was waving for Brendan or Eric to take a pull, but they didn't want it. On the paved part of this climb, however, they blew by me, sneaking into the singletrack in front a lapped rider who apparently couldn't slow down for one more half a second to let me in. Oh well, the way I was hurting, I couldn't have stuck with those guys for much longer anyway. The next lap was spent alone except for all the lapped traffic. SamO came and gave me company with two to go. We had a thoroughly indepth conversation about life and all its complexities for a lap and a half. He was really haulin. I fell off, and he ended up gaining 50 seconds on me, and catching Eric all in the final half lap. That kid knows how to pace a race.

With one more Thursday Buck left, that will make it ten for me this season. Ten times 4 laps plus the six from Sunday puts me at 46 laps. It will be a relief to be done. It will also be sad to be done.